COMMENTARY : Turin Wants to Keep English Team--and Fans--Out of Town
Five years later, the specter of death at a soccer game still haunts the people of Turin.
Mayor Magnani Noya, recalling the Italians killed in riots led by English troublemakers at the European Cup of Champions match in 1985, doesn’t want England’s national team in his city. If England beats Cameroon on Sunday, that’s exactly where it is headed.
“The actions of the hooligans in recent days are testimony to the dangers connected to their presence in Turin,” Noya said, referring to confrontations this week in the coastal resort of Rimini between English fans and Italians, then police. A total of 246 Britons were expelled from Italy after the unrest.
Foremost in his mind, though, was the incident at Heysel Stadium in Brussels in 1985. The game matched Liverpool against Juventus, which is based in Turin. During the rioting, 39 fans, mostly Italians, were killed.
English clubs have been barred from European club competitions ever since.
“As mayor of Turin, I officially ask FIFA to invert the venues of the two semifinals,” Noya said. “Not so much because Turin is unprepared, but because the memory of the Heysel tragedy that hit our city could aggravate the danger of the hooligans sparking a counter-reaction.”
FIFA spokesman Guido Tognoni said the world soccer federation would make no decision until after the quarterfinals. If England loses to Cameroon, the point becomes moot.
“There has been no official request yet and FIFA first has to see who qualifies for the semifinals,” Tognoni said. “No decision will be taken before the matches. . . . So far, the English crowd has been under control.”
At games, yes. Before them, not entirely. The incident at Rimini was the worst, but there was trouble between English rowdies and locals, then police, on the island of Sardinia in the opening round.
The two semifinal matches will be played at Naples on July 3 and Turin on July 4. As it stands now, the winners of the England-Cameroon and West Germany-Czechoslovakia quarterfinals will play at Turin; the winners of Italy-Ireland and Argentina-Yugoslavia will play at Naples.
Graham Newsom, spokesman for British Minister for Sport Colin Moynihan, said today that British officials don’t believe the Turin mayor’s proposal is necessary.
“We have every confidence in the authorities in Turin to police the game effectively, as their counterparts have done in Cagliari and Bologna,” Newsom said.
England appears to have an edge in its game because four Cameroon starters will be serving one-game suspensions. Cameroon will be without defenders Victor N’dip and Jules Onana and midfielders Andre Kana Biyik and Emile Mbouh.
“We will adjust,” Cameroon captain Stephen Tataw said.
Cameroon’s surprise scoring star, 38-year-old Roger Milla, is sore after a fall during practice. But he said he will be ready Sunday.
England also has had some health problems. Aside from captain Bryan Robson, who went home with a foot problem, defender Des Walker and forward John Barnes are hurting.